From little things, big things grow

A double flying fox, climbing walls, rope swings, a roundabout swing, and a “wicked” skateboard and scooter track all located at a beautiful waterfront location.

Sounds like a kid’s paradise, which makes sense when you learn this recently opened playground at Stockton was designed from the ground up by primary school students.

When St Peter’s Primary School, Stockton students from Years 3 and 4 were tasked in 2016 with a Persuasive Writing class assignment on a topic about which they felt “passionate”, they chose not to focus only on themselves but the wider Stockton community.

Knowing that Stockton and Fern Bay were growing suburbs with many young families but minimal outdoor play areas, the students chose to write to Newcastle City Council about the need for a new playground facility.

Each student wrote their own letter, expressing different ideas on why the playground would be of benefit to the community. Great for health, exercise, business and socialising, students also noted that Stockton provided plenty of open space with lovely ocean views and a ferry close by, making it the perfect location for a new play area.

“Within three weeks of writing to council, the class were delighted to not only receive a response, but also a visit from the council’s landscape architect and manager of council infrastructure,” said former St Peter’s teacher Lisa York.

“They thought the idea was fabulous and wanted to hear more,” Mrs York said. “Who better to design a playground than children?”

During the following term as part of their science unit, Design & Make, the students used OneNote, Sway, PowerPoint and even Minecraft to create 3D digital playground models and share their designs. Each week the class focused on different elements, including surveying the community, researching materials, exploring award-winning playgrounds around Australia and looking at landscape and environmental options.

At the end of term, an open classroom was held for families and council representatives; students hosted an information session and presented their designs.

The final designs ensured the area was accessible for those with disabilities and featured picnic and barbecue facilities, an area for skateboarding and scooters, a sand play area, a roundabout swing, a double flying fox, climbing frames, rope swings and more.

Council landscape designers spoke to the students, explored their designs, took photos and asked for all of the projects to be emailed to Newcastle Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, for her and her team to review.

After further consultation with the wider community, Newcastle City Council staff and Cr Nelmes visited St Peter’s to announce the playground was going ahead.

Three years on and Cr Nelmes officially opened the Stockton Active Hub where she unveiled a plaque in commemoration of the collaborative effort of the St Peter’s students, honouring their wonderful ideas and efforts. (We need a date for the opening).

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office, Assistant Director, Brian Lacey attended the event along with Mrs York and the 2016 students who are now in Years 6 and 7.

“School and community partnerships, as recognised in the National School Improvement Tool, are a key indicator of a successful school and this particular project certainly developed partnerships between the school, the local community and our council,” St Peter’s Principal Michael Punch said.

“It was a wonderful learning experience for our students to see that their ideas were heard and that action was taken based on their suggestions. Having students involved in the community and in decision-making processes augurs well for their development as contributing citizens in the future.

“I congratulate the students, Mrs York and Newcastle Council for the completion of a project that has resulted in the development of a fabulous facility for our city.”

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